Sunday, March 27, 2011

Preserving Our Natural Resources

They say a picture tells a thousand words. Look at this photo and what do you see? For the most part, I see a tree. Sure, there is an awfully nice home too, but by and large I see the tree.

I see a photo that tells a story of life, of birds singing, leaves providing protection from a hot summer sun, and leaves providing a glorious palette of colors in the fall. The tree also enhances the beauty of the home, framing it and providing a context.

Take away the tree, and the photo tells a vastly different story. Quiet, lifeless. The hot summer sun beating down mercilessly on the home, causing it to wear out and causing utility bills to soar. A stark, lonely home.

Green building programs such as LEED mandate tree protection. The concept is quite simple: keep things away from trees during construction. Keep them watered and fed. Engage an arborist who can prescribe treatments to minimize the stress from construction.

What is the value of a four-foot diameter oak tree? Davidson just put price tags on some of its trees as a way to show the value of the tree. Personally I think the valuations are way too low. How can you value something that cannot be replaced for decades? How much extra would someone pay for a house with no trees around it versus a home with mature shade trees? I think the answer is in the several thousands of dollars.

In spite of their value, there are still contractors who take few if any steps to protect trees. I wish mandates were not necessary, but unfortunately I believe they are. Davidson and other towns need to mandate tree protection programs for construction projects, and customers need to be educated about tree protection so they can insist that their builder follow good practices.

Insist on green building. It’s not just good for the home.